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Four arguments for Zionism

The Jewish people have historical, religious, legal and moral rights to a state of their own.

Crowds of Israelis wave flags at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City during Jerusalem Day celebrations, May 18, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Crowds of Israelis wave flags at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City during Jerusalem Day celebrations, May 18, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

The foundation of Zionism is that the Jewish people enjoy a unique right to the Land of Israel. Without this foundation, Zionism cannot be justified.

Millennia of history support this foundation. From their origins as a people, the Jews have believed the Land of Israel is their eternal homeland. Few other peoples in the world can make so sweeping and ancient a claim.

Israel’s enemies and anti-Zionists in general deny the Jewish right to the Land of Israel. They claim the Jewish people are just one of many conquerors of the land. They further hold that the Jews who made mass aliyah in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were colonizers with no connection to the land, let alone a right to their own state. Anti-Zionists see Zionism and the state it founded as, at best, an unjust and immoral mistake. These claims are fundamentally flawed.

First, the world today appears to have very inconsistent ideas about who should and should not have a state. There are peoples like the Kurds who are denied a state despite their ancient history in the lands they inhabit. There are other peoples who have a state without any viable justification for it. Even as a proud American, I find it difficult to justify the American government’s rule over Native Americans. There seem to be no clear standards on this question. The deciding factor, unfortunately, is power.

The Jewish people’s claim to the Land of Israel is an exception to that rule. It is not based on power, but a great many other things.

Many scoff at religion as a basis for national claims. But this has been a factor in many cases, such as Pakistan. It is certainly true in Israel’s case. The early Zionists were mostly secular, but their claim to the Land of Israel was based on the Jewish people’s history in the land. This history itself is based on the Bible’s account of God telling Abraham and his descendants that the Land of Israel was their divinely sanctioned homeland. Torah observant Jews and Bible-following Gentiles all maintain that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and commanded them to live there. Even presidents and prime ministers have often agreed. “You shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land to you to possess” (Numbers 33:53) remains as relevant today as it did 3,000 years ago.

Israel is replete with archeological finds that reveal the Jewish people’s long history in the land. Most famously, the City of David in Jerusalem has discovered roads, homes and coins that Jews used thousands of years ago throughout Israel. That history, moreover, isn’t just thousands of years old. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, sometimes large, sometimes small, since ancient times. When Jews came to this Land of Israel in the late 1800s, they were not strangers in a strange land. They were returning to a land where fellow Jews were already living. No people except the Jews ever established an independent state in the Land of Israel.

Israel’s existence is also anchored in international law. At the end of World War I, world powers divided up the former imperial possessions of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The British were given the mandate for then-Palestine. The mandate required the British to implement their own Balfour Declaration, which stipulated a national home for the Jewish people. The United Nations stipulated the same when it approved a partition plan for then-Palestine in 1947. Clearly, the international community has long since committed itself to the existence of a Jewish state.

There is also the moral argument. To illustrate, as the Holocaust began to take shape, the Jewish people turned to the world for refuge. At a 1938 conference in Evian, France, delegates from 32 countries all spoke with one voice on the need to provide a refuge for the European Jews—and then did nothing. For the Jews, the message was clear: The world would not help them. Only an independent Jewish state could do so. The world failed the Jewish people and therefore had a moral obligation to agree to the creation of a Jewish nation that would protect them.

Thus, there are four strong arguments for Zionism and Israel’s existence: Historical, religious, legal and moral. Moral and just people must accept these arguments and stand up for the Jewish people’s right to their own nation.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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